Now we are going to discuss the meaning of the mantra
Om catuḥ ṣaṣṭi kalā mayyai namaḥ
(who embodies the sixty-four fine arts.)
catuḥ ṣaṣtyupacārāḍhyā – catuḥ ṣaṣṭi kalā mayi –
mahā catuḥ ṣaṣṭi koṭi yoginī gaṇa sevitā.
These are the three mantras in the Thousand Names of the Devine Mother with the ‘Chatuh Shashti”. The word “Kala” means art. Kala also has other meanings. One meaning of the mantra is ‘She who embodies the sixty-four fine arts.
“Kala” denotes the temple art the music and dance performed in the temples. This is the meaning of the word ‘Kala’ 64 forms of arts are mentioned in India. All these 64 forms of arts are considered as secondary knowledge. By itself, none of these are able to lead us to God-realization.
These 64 forms include knowledge of 18 languages. The skill to read, write, speak to compose poems in these languages, the knowledge of the four Vedas – Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva Vedas. Knowledge of the upa Vedas like Ayurveda, Dhanurveda, Gandharva Veda.
The knowledge of wrestling, dancing, stringed musical instruments like Veena, wind instruments like flute. Like this, all that benefits us in the worldly life is included in the 64 forms of art.
Modern occupations like housekeeping can also be included in this. But by practicing this alone, we won’t be able to attain our goal of life.
To spend our lives performing these arts is not the ultimate goal of our life. Human life is not for that. When we become aware that these are the manifestations of the splendor of God, these arts are forms of worship to God. Then only we will be able to attain God-realization.
There is a story that illustrates how art is practiced as a form of worship. This happened in the life of a King Chempakasseri in Kerala. Once this King had a discussion with a person who narrates stories of Gods and Goddesses in temples (Chakyaar).
The King asked the person how long will he be able to go on, narrating the stories. He said he will be able to go on telling the story until there are oil and wick in the lamp before him. The King took it as a challenge and made arrangements to provide Oil and wick and whatever else is necessary.
The person started to narrate Ramayana- the story of Shri Rama. In the meantime, the King went for a pilgrimage to Kashi. He returned after the darshan of Lord Vishwanatha. The King had totally forgotten about the challenge.
After many days when he went near the temple, he heard a loud noise of cheers. He enquired about the reason for the cheers. Somebody told him that a person is narrating the story of Lord Rama for the past few years. That day he was narrating the birth of Rama and people are cheering in happiness.
When the King heard this he remembered the arrangements made for the person to tell stories. In the same way, when we perform an art, we are glorifying the splendor of God as if we are offering a prayer in our alter.
Whether it is music or dance or any other temple art. That is a form of worship. The purpose of performing any art is to utilize the God-given talent to worship him.
Thyagaraja Bhagavatar, Mutuswami Deekshithar, Shyama Sastri, and many others who have practiced different forms of art are persons who attained God-realization.
“catuḥ ṣaṣṭi kalā mayi” means that all knowledge that we have acquired, all the talent we got, Knowledge in the languages, ability to interpret things, knowledge of Vedas, Upavedas all these are embodiments of God. The meaning of this mantra is – All Knowledge is the glory of The Divine Mother.